Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mary's Shrine in DC & Christ in Majesty

I recently received Mary's Shrine, a newsletter from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The color newsletter is informative and gives a lot of information about the Shrine, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Shrine this year. This National Marian Shrine and pilgrimage Church is dedicated to Mary and peoples from countries around the world. It has over 70 chapels and oratories. I visited this magnificent Church a few years ago, while in Washington, DC. My cousins live nearby in Virginia and I was asked to be a Confirmation sponsor, so my husband and I made the trip to Virginia for the Confirmation Mass. We also visited the Shrine during that trip, with my cousins. 
But getting back to the newsletter, I was happy to see a picture of Fr. Vito Buonanno, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, who is the new Director of Pilgrimages, in the newsletter. He's standing with Msgr. Rossi, who is the Rector of the Shrine. I sent a letter to Msgr. Rossi, after visiting the Shrine, but I'll mention that later in this blog, because looking back on it, it's rather funny. Anyhow, Fr. Vito looks happy in the photograph. I know Fr. Vito, from the Diocese of Brooklyn, he's a wonderful priest, with a good sense of humor. He served as an Interim and then as an Associate Director of Liturgy for many years, in the Brooklyn Diocese and also as pastor of Ascension Parish in Queens. He's a good choice for the Director of Pilgrimages and I know he'll be great in that position. 
Getting back to my visit to the Shrine. I met Fr. Holcomb, the previous Director of Pilgrimages while I was there and I introduced him to my family. I didn't know him before arriving at the Shrine, but he happened to be in his office and so we all said hello.
After arriving home, I sent Msgr. Rossi, the rector, a letter. Something bothered me about the Shrine, so I thought I would write him about it. At the Shrine, dominating the North Apse of the Great Upper Church is a Byzantine style mosaic titled, Christ in Majesty. It is one of the largest images of Jesus in the world and it contains more than 4,000 shades and colors. But I had a problem with the mosaic. Jesus looks very angry and stern in the mosaic. Not welcoming at all..............for a Shrine Church, with such significance and as a place of pilgrimage.... it upset me that Jesus looked so angry and that's what I wrote to Msgr. Rossi. He wrote back to me, explaining that it was suppose to show Jesus' power and might and that is how he is often depicted in Byzantine style art. It was nice of him to respond to my letter, but I still felt that for so important a piece of artwork, in such a prime location in the Shrine, a gentle, loving Jesus would be more effective.  So that's my story about the mosaic, Christ in Majesty. 
After receiving the letter from Msgr. Rossi, I mailed it to my cousins in Virginia and they thought the whole thing was very funny.